Reprinted from CoStar
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, independent hotels have shifted the way they approach everything from food and beverage service to design and wellness.
For example, the Indigo Road Hospitality Group has adopted more grab-and-go food-and-beverage options. Founder Steve Palmer said Indigo Road independent properties have curated special menus for guests on the go.
“We started creating specific menus like lasagna for four or a roast chicken,” which are separate from traditional menu items, he said. Palmer added that the goal of the specific menus was to add value and unique items to entice demand.
The pandemic has also led to some surprises in terms of food and beverage trends. Indigo Road never anticipated its hotel restaurants would be on platforms like DoorDash, “but now, across all operations, we’re on at least one delivery platform,” he said.
Will Lucas, CEO and founder of tech-focused hotel company Mint House, said via email that he’s seen some hotels change traditional room service to include pick-up and door-delivery options. And sit-down dining isn’t as important to guests as it once was, Lucas said. He added he has also seen a trend in room service powered by ghost kitchens, the use of kitchen space for take-out operations, which hasn’t really been a part of hotels in the past.
“Ghost kitchens have been on the rise since the beginning of COVID and will remain a popular option, offering new hotels a reduced cost in real estate and labor, and existing hotels an opportunity to cater to guests in a lower-risk way,” he said. “Some independent hotels are even creating custom menus where guests no longer need to filter through Uber Eats and Grubhub searching for the city’s best takeout — the hotel does all the work for them.”
Food and beverage trends differ for branded hotels and independent hotels because the goal of boutique and independent properties is to connect with their neighborhoods, Palmer said.
“We never see ourselves as a hotel restaurant. We see ourselves as a locally owned, independently operated restaurant that happens to be in a hotel,” he said. “That drives more relationships to locals. People in the neighborhood of the hotel; people that are frequenting restaurants.”
Boutique hotel restaurants can come in the form of a pastry chef doing pop-ups in the lobby or in the form of delivery, Palmer said. Independent restaurants that are in hotels have a stronger sense of identity than a restaurant in a branded hotel, he added.
In 2021, independent hotels are expected to create brands of their own and unique offerings that make them stand out from the big brands on the design front, Jese Medina-Suarez, design director and principal at Wilson Associates’ London office, said via email.
The arrival of hotel amenities to the guestroom was a surprising trend that started a few years ago, but it’s since gained popularity throughout the pandemic, he said.
“New dining, wellness and fitness offerings are brought to the room. Guests want to have the opportunity to exercise and dine in the room and avoid socializing until better times [are] here,” he said.
When it comes to thinking about social distancing and designing a hotel, Medina-Suarez said there are a few key things to keep in mind: “Distance between guests at all times, access to fresh air when guests need to spend long periods of time, such as dining, and avoiding touchpoints where guests may manually manipulate items that are repetitively touched by other people.”
Safety and social-distancing requirements likely will not change until herd immunity is reached, which won’t depend on how many vaccines are developed, he said.
“It will heavily depend though on how many people have access and accept the vaccines that are indeed available,” he said.
Once the pandemic is over, Medina-Suarez said, “the hospitality industry is going to bloom like never seen before.”
“We need to be careful until then and respect wearing masks and social distancing,” he said.
Wellness is an important part of people’s lives and has extended to their travel journey. For independent hotels, that wellness journey starts when a guest arrives at a hotel with aesthetics, Sara Martinez, regional director of sales and marketing at Real Hospitality Group, said via email.
“Take the Made hotel in New York City, for example. From the warm lighting in the guestrooms to the design of the fixture to the Davinci bath amenities, it all starts with the feeling of relaxation and wellness,” she said. “In the guestroom space, the hotel offers yoga mats so guests can utilize a virtual coach and exercise in the safety of their own space. Outdoor fitness options are readily available to guests upon request.”
The introduction of in-room fitness and virtual personal trainers is a newer trend to the hotel space, one which surprised Martinez a little bit, she said.
“Co-branding with Peloton bikes and talks of partnering with the Mirror have been a topic of conversation as demand for wellness-related activities has continued to increase,” she said. “Creative F&B options catering to a healthy lifestyle is evolving. Studies have shown a marked increase in [revenue per available room] for hotels with wellness offerings, so we need to stay ahead of the demand curve.”
Group classes at hotels have also become popular, but the pandemic put a halt to those, Martinez said.
“For example, Made used to offer loads of wellness-oriented classes and programming prior to the pandemic. This was a big part of our brand DNA,” she said. “Ranging from wellness drink-making classes, yoga and meditation to sounds [baths]. Since the pandemic, we can no longer offer those classes as we do not want to encourage people to gather, especially in smaller spaces.
“We certainly look forward to better times and being able to return back to this normal offering as soon as safely plausible.”
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